Getting Your Brand Recipe Just Right

Did you know that Sylvester Stallone was considered for the role of Han Solo in Star Wars? Can you imagine it? And even more absurd – Lucille Ball was considered for Scarlett O’Hara in Gone With The Wind … I kid you not.

My response to stories like this is typical: “How could they have even thought that?” But now having been through a creative process myself – of creating something and then attempting to build a brand around it – I have seen firsthand just how difficult many creative decisions are. First you have to come up with the ideas, and then you have to mix them up in just the right measure. In hindsight the answers are usually obvious, but when you’re actually creating it, it’s nowhere near as easy as it seems.

Just consider this… aside from Stallone, 1000 other actors were considered for the Han Solo role. And this is just ONE element in a massive creative project.
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Can You Handle The Truth About Your Brand?

Honest feedback about your product or service can be a double-edged sword – sometimes it can cut deep, but if you don’t welcome it your business may slowly bleed to death as customers drop off one by one.

In a brave move, the Russian vodka Pravda capitalised on its name, which means “truth” in Russian, and went with a “market research” campaign to build brand awareness on its recent entry to the US market.

Amy Corr from Media Creativity tells all in her post Vodka Drinkers Tell Truth About Taste:

Philadelphia residents gave their unadulterated opinions on the taste of various vodka brands — especially Pravda, the luxury vodka named for the Russian word for “truth.”

With the brand now available in the United States, Pravda focused on the city of Brotherly Love in an effort to gauge drinkers’ opinions on the vodka’s taste compared to brands currently on the market.

Pravda organized taste tests from April through July at a number of bars, targeting 25- to 45-year olds.

After blind-tasting Pravda vodka along with an assortment of other brands, participants were given business cards with the URL and a phone number to call and let loose on their experience. A drunk dialer that’s actually welcomed.

Users anonymously left voicemails for Pravda, revealing their honest opinion of the brand. These messages, whether they were good, bad, or downright inarticulate, were converted into mp3 files and posted online for the world to listen.

What do you think? Is this a clever marketing move in the age of transparency? Would you put your brand up for a public taste test and display the results for all the world to see?

Email Marketing for Australian Small Business – Review

Researchers estimate that US businesses alone spent $400 million on email marketing in 2006. This indicates it’s a pretty decent market, and probably because most businesses now know that email marketing works.

For small business owners who are just starting out, or just getting online, the only real decision left to make is, what service do I use?

The team over at believe that email marketing is the most affordable and best-performing type of marketing available. They offer email marketing solutions to Australian small businesses and would like Aussie business owners to choose them, so they contacted us for a sponsored review.

Big Response cofounder Mitchell Harper says they wanted to create an affordable, easy-to-use email marketing service that any Australian small business could use.

I qualify to test-drive this service for two reasons. Firstly I’m an Aussie, and secondly, considering that I can read maps more easily than I can read websites, I figure if I can find my way easily around a site (and get the task done without swearing too much), then anyone can.

So let’s take a look at how they stacked up in terms of affordability and ease of use.

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Are You Running Your Own Race?

I love the story about the old African American woman who’s informed by someone that she should do this, and she must do that. And her response is: “I ain’t gotta do nuthin’, ’cept stay black and die.”

How often do we do things in business just because someone told us we should? Just because we believe, often with blind faith, that it will help take us to the promised land? Too often in my opinion.

Lately I’ve been thinking about how we’re bombarded with directions – should do’s and must do’s – in all areas of our life, but perhaps especially in business. And of course, if you’re doing what you should be, you’re probably reading and listening to a bucket load of information about how to conduct and grow your business. I mean let’s face it, every man and his dog is telling you what you should do…

Become a blogger, be the expert, do speaking engagements, follow-up, cold call, network, stand on your head and chant “I love the customer” 50 times a day, (okay, I made that one up), and on and on ad nauseam.

Now, while it’s great to listen and learn (especially from people who’ve done it), should we take it all as gospel? Do we just follow blindly? And if not, how do we determine which bits to ignore? And what if something we’re instructed to do doesn’t sort of “fit right” – do we still do it anyway, because we’re told we should? In other words: Does OUR success lie up the path that someone else has laid? I honestly believe the answer to that is yes and no.

I think there are certain fundamentals that we need to adhere to in order to succeed, but in my opinion there’s a lot to be said for tailor-making your journey to success. So as far as I’m concerned, they can take their should and shove it!

Here’s how I now approach it:
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A Hidden Treasure: Selling at the Weekend Markets

I recently suggested the weekend markets as a sales and marketing avenue to a friend who has a new and fabulous game. While “selling” the idea to him it got me thinking about all the things I learnt from my own experience selling my merchandise at the weekend markets last year. I learnt a heap about sales and marketing and had a ball in the process.

Although much is done online these days, if you have a physical product to sell, I highly recommend the weekend markets as the ultimate platform for testing how your rubber hits the road – how well you know your product and your market, how you engage with it, what the demand is, and how people respond to your stuff. This is particularly useful if you’re just starting out.

Markets can vary greatly, so I tested a few different ones until I found the one that was the best fit for my products and me personally.

Now before you turn your nose up, consider this: The majority of people who go to markets are already in “buying mode”. They’re cashed up and looking to offload it. It was an eye-opener for me just how much money is out there! Many stallholders at markets (around Australia) make a very handsome living. In fact, quite a few of them have become millionaires courtesy of their market stall.

When I first set up stall, I had no idea what I was doing. No idea what market to sell at, how to present my stall, or how to sell. So for me, there was no downside – all I could do was learn!

Here’s some of the amazing benefits I found hidden at the weekend markets.

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Measure How Effective Your Website Is Using

Ever wanted to know exactly how all your efforts at online marketing measure up? Well, hang onto your hat because now there’s a way to find out. And guess what, it’s free.

Website Grader contacted us here at Small Business Branding and asked us to review their website (by the way – did you know you can get your site reviewed on our blog by purchasing a paid review?). Website Grader offer a new software tool that measures the online marketing effectiveness of a website. It assigns a numerical score, or “grade”, ranging from 0-99 (apparently 100 isn’t possible) to a given website. The score is based on a variety of data points about the website including the structure, popularity, traffic, search engine optimisation, marketing features and a host of other factors.

The grade itself is calculated as a percentile score. So, if a given site gets a score of 60, this means it’s more effective than 60% of the other sites that have been graded. And therefore, the more sites that have been graded, the more meaningful the results. During their 3 months of operation, so far they’ve processed and graded over 35,000 unique URLs.

I took it for a test drive on Small Business Branding, so let’s have a look at the process and results.
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Why “Differentiate” is a Dirty Word

The message from the marketing gurus is clear – differentiate or die. We’re told that if we don’t get our very own Unique Selling Proposition then we’re either going to drop dead or live out our days as a wallflower. Not a pretty diagnosis either way.

Now that I’ve cheered you up, let’s consider why finding that “point of difference” is so difficult for many small business owners, and what steps we can take to point us in the right direction.

I’m inquisitive and like to investigate, so the question I asked myself was: why do so many businesses mirror each other? Here’s what I think:

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